Charles the perfect gentleman says his farewells
One of Yorkshire’s finest gentleman estate agents has retired. to Charles Yeoman about his career and the past and future of his profession.
ESTATE agents have an unfortunate reputation and feature high on the list of most hated professionals, but there are many exceptions to this sweeping generalisation.
Charles Yeoman is an outstanding example of one. He is the perfect gentleman, with the sort of impeccable manners you rarely encounter in a world that has embraced informality.
Dressed in tweeds with a spotted hanky in his top pocket and a twinkle in his eye, he is old school – Sedbergh in fact – but without a hint of stuffiness and this, together with a great sense of humour, has made him one of the best-loved agents in North Yorkshire.
In fact, he’s so nice, he makes for a difficult interview. Anecdotes are tricky because he doesn’t want to betray confidences and he doesn’t want to offend anyone with opinions that are too strong.
What he will say is that there has been an unhealthy obsession with en-suite bathrooms of late, which he believes may be waning “thank goodness”.
“One or two en-suite bathrooms is fine but not every bedroom needs one. It’s more to clean and you can destroy the character of a lovely big bedroom by squeezing a shower room the size of a telephone box in the corner,” he says.
He also dismisses the House Doctor advice to “neutralise” your house if you want to sell it.
“I’ve always said the opposite. A house has to be homely. Leave the family pictures and the Sunday papers on the chair, though make sure the front door and windows don’t look shabby.”
He also advises not to offer prospective buyers tea, coffee or sherry.
“There’s no need. People make their mind up about a house within about 30 seconds and the ones who stay longest or who come back for second and third viewings are the least likely to buy.”
His own home is near Masham, where he lives with his wife, dogs and chickens. It is a haven for what he calls his extrovert/ introvert nature.
“I think a lot of estate agents are like that. The job requires them to be gregarious, but come the weekend they want to pull up the drawbridge and live like a hermit,” says Charles, 61, who has three children.
He spent much of his childhood in Kirkby Overblow, Harrogate, before his father, a surgeon, moved the family to Bath. After attending the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, he qualified as a chartered surveyor and became a land agent managing estates in Bath, Cornwall and London. He came back to Yorkshire in the early 1980’s.
“It’s a wonderful place and most people who move up here don’t want to leave,” he says.
When land agency became more desk-bound, he transferred into estate agency with Knight Frank, before moving to Strutt and Parker in Harrogate, where he worked for almost 20 years becoming a partner and head of residential sales.
Some of his happiest times were spent with his friend and colleague, the late James Gloag. They were an excellent double act, charming prospective clients and winning business. But the pace and demands increased and business lunches were replaced with sausage rolls scoffed at the wheel of the car – he still has a jar of mustard and a pepper mill in the glove compartment.
“Estate agency has changed. Eight years ago I had a discussion with colleagues and we decided the internet wouldn’t change the way we did business. But it has and, strangely, it means we now have to ring people even more to persuade them to view a house. They think they’ve seen it if they’ve looked at pictures on the internet and they haven’t. It’s a challenge to persuade them to go and look.”
Selling is an even bigger challenge now, but Charles is adamant that buying your own home is the best investment you can make if you take a long-term view.
“The best thing you can invest in is your own house,” he says. “Keep moving up the ladder, you can downsize when you retire and the money you make is tax-free.
“I can’t understand this obsession that young people have with being mortgage-free. Obviously don’t over stretch but keep going up for as long as you are able.”
He also suggests that now is the time to make your home more energy-efficient with insulation, heat pumps and solar panels, as buyers are increasingly looking at the running costs of a property.
While retaining a consultancy role for Strutt and Parker, Charles intends to enjoy retirement by working in his kitchen garden, sailing his boat in Cornwall and watching old black and white movies while sipping a G&T. Those films depict a time when gentlemen looked and acted the part and you can see why he identifies with the era.
“You couldn’t get more of a gentleman than Charles,” says a fellow agent and he’s right. Like those old movies, they don’t make them like that anymore.
LOOKING THE PART: Well-known estate agent Charles Yeoman has retired from Strutt and Parker, Harrogate, after almost 20 years.